A Letter To My 26-Year-Old Self

Leo Hidalgo
Leo Hidalgo

Dearest You,

I’ve lived and loved longer than you have at this stage and I have good and disappointing news. The good news is that you can eat whatever you want and it will not show. Those diet decisions can safely be left unaddressed for another few years when, yes, you will join a gym. You will end up being a girl who likes running on a treadmill, regardless of how disparagingly you speak of people who, “run in the same place just to keep up with a machine, and pay money to do it?! Are they stupid?”

Yeah, that will be you soon.

You should get that second tattoo. I know you’re thinking about it but I wish you’d get it already before you get to where I am because I’m too paranoid and trust others too little to do it right now. Trust me, the design you want is the right one, and you’ll regret it a little if you don’t. Don’t bother with the belly button piercing though—you’ll be bored before it even has time to heal!

You’re not going to be a gypsy bartender, wandering the world with a backpack and a map. And that’s not awful because the only thing you liked about that picture was that it’s a picture, right? Don’t lie, I know you. Instead, you’ll be a storyteller, painting pictures using a thousand words. But here’s the deal—you won’t get there alone. Surprisingly, talent isn’t everything. I know you face trouble with people in authority and I have three words for you—It’s. Not. Personal. Not everyone is trying to undermine you. Sometimes, they really don’t get it. And sometimes, neither do you.

So start listening.

You’re beautiful. I know there are many people who’re telling you this these days and you don’t believe them because you don’t see yourself. You’re beautiful in a young, unbroken and enthusiastic kind of way that makes people want to sweep you up and protect you from the harsh spikes of inevitable disappointment. Enjoy this, and know that when they say they love you, they do mean it, but not always in the way you’re thinking.

And now for the doozy. I know Mom’s been trying to get you to ring the wedding bells. She’s telling you that unless you pick someone quick, all the good guys will be taken and then, in another ten years, all your friends will be married with kids and soon they’ll lose sight of you and all the promise you hold. I want to tell you something. She’s wrong. But not for the reasons you imagine.

Yes, all the good guys will be taken because they’re wonderful people who believe in the ever after. But in another few years, they’ll find you on Facebook and marvel at how gorgeous you are. They’ll wonder why they never had the courage to make something happen with you when they were younger and you secretly spent your time attaching your first name to their last. Then, they will regale you with stories of their marriage and kids and their divorce proceedings. Now, soon-to-be / recently separated / divorced they will ask you how you feel about being Friends With Benefits / casually hooking up / a quick grope after dinner. And just like that, many of the good guys will have turned into THAT guy.

But you have to understand something. Those very guys are young and romantic and idealistic right now. They walk lighter without life’s inevitable baggage, and have the energy to make their existence follow the path that all the books and movies have promised them is true. Those are the guys who want to marry you now. Some of them are also the same guys who, in a few years as they troll through the profile pictures of their hot classmates from school, will wonder why the hell they got married so young.

The truth is, life will unfold and shit will happen for everyone and everyone will be changed for better or worse. Try not to judge too harshly — the people you know today will be different tomorrow, as will you. And that’s the beauty of it all.!

So the good guys will always be there. When some of those good guys turn into THOSE guys, there will be other good guys who will turn up. But as you grow older, and deal with an increasing number of Those Guys, you’ll become much more discerning and find it harder to suspend disbelief. Your time and mental peace will become way more important than watching the sun rise after a whole night spent talking with a stranger. You will finally have learned the art of looking after yourself – mentally and emotionally. You would have become a woman.

In the meanwhile, you’ll have dinners with your friends who did not desert you despite marriages and kids, and you’ll understand it’s because they need you too. You will understand why love is complicated and you’ll become kinder. You will watch your preconceived notions about right and wrong melt away into a relative space, you’ll learn to spend a lot of time alone and enjoy it, and you’ll finally understand that until the end credits roll, this life starring you will have many twists and turns and no one can know how it ends.

So breathe. It’s going to be alright.

Love Always,
Me. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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